Why You MUST Keep a Seed Bank---Things to Consider
In these uncertain times, it's obviously very important to be prepared for any type of emergency or disaster relevant to the area in which you live. We've seen in recent years the devastation, even in our own country, that floods, hurricanes, blizzards, severe drought, and more can wreak upon a large or small community. We've also witnessed the results of what happens to people who are unprepared in these circumstances.
Being basically prepared is something that is just logical to keep your family safe. But how about for the long term? Yes, many of us have a few weeks or months of food and water storage for our family, or at least have a plan of some kind. But just what IF something truly devastating were to happen? The kind of thing that might create a severe food availability problem?
I have to admit that I have never saved seeds....at least not seriously. I've given it some thought, and have had good intentions, but have never actually gotten around to doing it very well. I also never really gave much thought to buying seeds specifically for setting aside in case of a long term emergency of any kind...even a family economic emergency.
But I've been talking with very experienced gardeners who save their seeds from year to year---heirloom seeds that is. And I've been talking with regular gardeners like me, who have been educating me about why it's important to keep a seed bank or a seed storage system. Here are some factors to keep in mind when choosing your seed storage kit and why you should have seeds stored:
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And, if you are interested in other survival articles, find out How to Amend the Worst Soil in the World, How to Put Together a Get Home Bag and What to Look for When Searching for a Survival Homestead.
Things to Keep in Mind When Purchasing Seeds for Storage
1) Are the Seeds Open-Pollinated, Heirloom, Non-Hybrid, and Non-GMO?
These are REALLY important factors to take into account when saving seeds. But what do these terms mean?
Open-pollinated seeds are simply seeds that are pollinated by natural means: insects, wind, birds, humans. Pollen floats through the air or is carried from plant to plant. As long as plants are not pollinated by other plants within the same species, these plants will continue to have true to type offspring for years!
Heirloom seeds have a history of being passed down through generations through a family or community and have remained true to type often for decades. These seeds generally produce strong and viable plants that have been successful produces for generations. Heirloom seeds are all open-pollinated, but not all open-pollinated seeds are heirloom seeds.
Hybrid seeds are seeds that have been cross pollinated with other plants within a species to obtain a certain trait. The reason why you do NOT want hybrid seeds is that over time, their production may weaken, and the plants are no longer true-to-type. Sometimes plants will cross-pollinate on their own, but seeds sold as hybrids have been commercially cross-bred. The problem with hybrid seeds is that they are not stable genetically and have not stood the test of time. Generally, gardeners who purchase hybrid seed must purchase seed every year.
Trust me. You do NOT want GMO seeds. Luckily, there are actually few on the market, but the trouble is the pollen grows in the wind. Responsible seeds companies actively test for GMO contamination of their seeds every year. So why aren't GMO (Genetically Modified) seeds ok? Well, GMO seeds are actually created in high tech labs through a process called gene splicing.
Far beyond just cross pollinating within a species of plant, GMO plants are often crossed with completely different species of plant, or worse, across completely different plant kingdoms. An example of this is when Monsanto crossed a strain of bacteria with corn, resulting in "Bt corn" that is actually registered as a PESTICIDE with the EPA, along with other Bt varieties of GMO plants. Source.
I could go on a rant right now, but I'll try to focus here. The bottom line is that GMO's of ANY kind are environmentally dangerous, and not enough is known about them to be sure they are actually safe for human use. Please do more research of your own into the whole GMO issue.
2. How are the Seeds Stored?
This is crucial to know. There are three main enemies of seed storage: Heat, light, and oxygen.
You want to be sure your seeds are stored properly. Mylar bags like the ones in the picture above are perfect. These are opaque, thick, water-tight, and oxygen free. These seed packs can be stored away for years! However, mylar is not absolutely necessary. With proper storage, even seeds stored in paper bags do very well.
Find a cool spot to store your seeds as well. Too much heat and light can ruin your seeds and diminish the viability (how many are alive) of the seed packs. I have heard that you shouldn't freeze your seeds, but I have in the past with no problems. I have also heard that storage around 40 to 60 degrees is the perfect range. Obviously, we all don't have the perfect root cellar or cool basement, so if you just are aware of the temperature and don't let things get too hot, you'll be fine!
3) How Large Should the Seed Bank Be?
Depending on the size of your family and how long you want to be sure you have seeds to grow if you need them in the future will be the main two determiners of how much you want to buy. You should also take into consideration the types of seeds you want.
The seed bank above is very large, and for a typical family, this would be fine for a couple of years---and then you can save your seeds from year to year too!
4) How Viable are the Seeds?
I just had to ask this question and do some actual experimenting to find out for myself for the seeds I had last year. This is SUPER important! You don't want seeds that don't grow, right?
Seeds need certain conditions to grow well (soil, light, moisture, etc.), but if all these factors are met, then you should be able to count on a certain number of seeds germinating.
I looked up the government standards set forth by the Federal Seed Act (yes, the government even regulates seeds in this over-regulated world, I'm afraid), and found that tomatoes should have a 75% rate, peppers should have a 55% rate, and eggplant should be 60%. Source.
Unfortunately, I didn't mark the seeds when I planted them (WHEN will I ever learn...I always think I'm going to remember!), and I'd estimate so far between all the types I started, there is about an 80% germination rate overall! That's really great, and the seeds are still emerging!
Final Thoughts on Choosing and Using a Seed Bank
It's important to choose well when deciding which seed companies to try. Last year I chose Heaven's Harvest, and I was very happy with them. This year, I have switched over to White Harvest Seeds, and am even more pleased. My other favorite company is Baker Creek Seeds. Remember---be sure to look for non-GMO, non-hybrid, and heirloom seeds! I can't stress those qualities enough!
Do you save your seeds? I'd love to know what you think of this, as I am just starting to get better at the seed saving aspect of homesteading--- Like I always say....It's a journey!
Hugs & Self-Reliance,
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